It’s all around us. If you walk into any public place you will most likely see at least a few people with their eyes glued to their phone – not even aware of what’s going on around them.
Law enforcement says social media is growing and changing faster than the law can keep up. There are entire companies devoted to creating fake followers and selling them for most of the major platforms.
Social media also offers the ability to instantly communicate with friends and colleagues all over the world. It provides instant access to information, news at your fingertips, and virtually unlimited pictures of cats.
Like any new technology there are advantages and disadvantages. For example, there are now new ways for the bad guys to take advantage of others.
Social media has become such a core part of business and our everyday lives now that a certain credibility is given to those who have more people who are interested their companies posts (usually called followers). This is why fake accounts are becoming a problem.
Recently Twitter has started cracking down on this. An example is a company based in New York called Devumi Social Media Marketing has recently stopped selling Twitter followers. Many sellers of followers were involved in creating fake, “one off” accounts. They would go on a social media platform and find legitimate accounts and then create a new one with a slightly different spelling on the name. In most cases they would use the legitimate accounts picture and even some of the posts, location information, and other credentials. Making them appear to be like the original account.
These companies would then “sell” a number of followers to a buyer. The problem with fake accounts is that while it does increase the total numbers, there is no interaction between the follower and the account which they are designed to follow. Interaction is a key component of social media. The real benefit from commercial use of sites like Twitter and Facebook is promotion. With these kinds of accounts, you are basically just speaking into an empty well. In addition to that, it can create security problems as well.
The worst part – this usually happens without the legitimate account holders even knowing about it.
This week there was another school shooting, now the second deadliest in U.S. History. Social media can both help and hurt police during these types of situations.
On the positive side, proper use of social media can help build a trustworthy relationship and a sense of community through engagement between the police and the community as a whole. This can also help with the department’s reputation with the community. Often people will be willing to share things from the anonymity of the computer concerning topics that wouldn’t be otherwise brought up. Social media can create a forum for departments to share tips, answer questions, and gain information they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. In the case of school shootings and other violent acts, these events are often discussed by a criminal on their own social media. This can be used to alert police of events potentially before they happen.
During and after an event like a school shooting, police can use social media to provide information, quickly spread knowledge, and other information with minimal effort.
On a negative side social media has introduced new crimes and risks for many users, especially young people. Things like revenge porn and online bullying are some examples of these type of risks. In the case of a school shooting, the shooter can also provide misleading information to lure and gather other students to one concentrated location.
The History Cooperative puts the birth of social media in 1997 with real adaptation starting in 2003. At 20 years of age this is a very new concept and technology. We have seen very rapid evolution of the technology over this time including the introduction, high point, and demise of sites like MySpace.
To stay relevant companies like Facebook have to keep their technology current and their credibility above reproach. Due to the Russian election scandal Facebook has been named one of the top 20 hated companies in America by USA Today. To address this you will soon see some big changes to the news feed. In an effort to combat “fake news” and other such topics Facebook is prioritizing what you, your friends, and family see based on the user interaction. For example , if there is a flame war where there is lots of interaction, then the feeds will direct end users to this instead of someone’s more peaceful pictures of cats or how to cook video.
As with any change there is concern that publishers and brands will lose viewing time from potential clients. There is also concern about Facebook forcing you to view what they want – although this has been true since the network started.
Social media is here to stay. It’s effects have changed the world in both good and bad ways. This is just the beginning, and it will be very interesting to see where we are in another 20 years.
William (Bill) Sikkens has been a technology expert for KXL on the Morning Show with Steve and Rebecca since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand. Article edited by Gretchen Winkler.
Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw